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SEA leader takes job to invest in his own community

Fred Shepherd became the CEO of Sandoval Economic Alliance in December.
Photo Amy Byres / Observer

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The new CEO of the Sandoval Economic Alliance is invested in Rio Rancho, wanting to see its growth, he said.

After working as a community development specialist with the New Mexico Economic Development Department, Fred Shepherd took the position of CEO at SEA in December.

“The whole time I was working at the state, I lived in the community, and so I want to see the community grow. And that is part of the reason why I accepted the challenge of coming over here, is the fact that I live here,” Shepherd said. “I could have continued to work and try to cover four counties at a 1,000-foot level, but to be able to have more of an acting role in the change and growth in the community I live, that is something I wanted to be a part of.”

Shepherd said former CEOs have laid out groundwork so his role in SEA could begin.

“By no means can I take credit for the studies that were done when Steve Jenkins was CEO. He did a good job in setting up some of the groundwork and really getting things prepared.

“Barbara Brazil came and was able to help organization and streamline some processes,” Shepherd said.

“I just want to make sure we give credit to them; the programs that are set up are not programs that I came up with. This is work that others have developed and worked hard on so now my role is basically to help implement and make it successful.”

A 2017 Target Industry Study of Sandoval County developed the concepts behind many of Shepherd’s focuses. One focus is an initiative by SEA called Future Sandoval.

According to SEA’s website, the goals for Future Sandoval are:

• Economic growth,

• Talent development,

• Brand recognition, and

• Global competitiveness.

The study recognized three industries for SEA to target:

• Life sciences,

• Professional services and support, and

• Advanced technology and manufacturing.

“In economic development, I like to tell people, we become a jack of all trades,” he said.

Shepherd stressed that SEA can’t only focus on one aspect of economic growth.

“I can’t solely focus on developing sites. I can’t do that and neglect the businesses we have and the opportunities we have,” he said.

Shepherd wants to nurture business already in Rio Rancho and continue to increase engagement from the community.

“We need to hear what businesses are saying, what challenges they are facing, so we can provide feedback to the city and provide feedback to educational institutes,” he said.

Shepherd has recently utilized the VeriReady program, which provides development sites with much of the paperwork and approval process already done.

Each site has to meet a list of criteria to qualify as “suitable for development,” according to the VeriReady website.

Shepherd is working on a collaborative among business and educational programs to hear the needs of business. SEA will also go on the road this year to bring new industry back to Rio Rancho.

“We need to be fluid and agile and be able to change and adapt to what is going on in the community and the environment of economics and development,” Shepherd said.

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